Sunday, May 3, 2009

Simple software, not-so-simple marketing copy is a well-known provider of software as a service (SaaS). The company’s software is widely used by nontechnical people. Not surprisingly, the company touts the software’s simplicity:

“say goodbye to complexity”
“easily assemble applications”
“point-and-click simplicity”
“easy-to-use development model”
“ ‘no programming’ point-and-click wizards”

But the company does not seem to strive for simplicity in writing; that is to say, in writing its marketing copy. Here, for example, is the company’s motherhood statement* as used in a May 1 press release:

“ is the enterprise cloud computing company. The company’s portfolio of SaaS applications, including its award-winning CRM, available at, has revolutionized the ways that customers manage and share business information over the Internet. The company’s PaaS enables customers, developers and partners to build powerful on-demand applications that deliver the benefits of multi-tenancy across the enterprise. Applications built on the platform, available at, can be easily shared, exchanged and installed with a few simple clicks via’s AppExchange marketplace available at

“As of January 31, 2009, manages customer information for approximately 55,400 customers including Allianz Commercial, Dell, Dow Jones Newswires, Japan Post, Kaiser Permanente, KONE, and SunTrust Banks. Any unreleased services or features referenced in this or other press releases or public statements are not currently available and may not be delivered on time or at all. Customers who purchase applications should make their purchase decisions based upon features that are currently available. has headquarters in San Francisco, with offices in Europe and Asia, and trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol ‘CRM’. For more information please visit”

Let us apply the widely used Flesch Reading Ease test. Average sentence length is 23.8 words. This is unusually long. Average word length is 6.1 characters. This also is unusually long. Readability is 5.4. This is a very low score for marketing copy, even in the software industry, which is known for difficult-to-read marketing copy.

For comparison purposes, consider these ranges of readability scores:

60s Reader’s Digest
50s Time magazine
40s The Wall Street Journal
30s Harvard Law Review; white papers
20s IRS forms; academic papers

So,’s description of itself is much harder to read than IRS forms and academic papers. (Keep in mind that IRS forms and academic papers are deliberately confusing.)

In short, has provided an instructive example of how not to write marketing copy.

The Takeaway: If you write marketing copy aimed at nontechnical people, always strive for a readability score above 50. Settle for 30 to 50 if the names of products or product categories are long. But never go below 30. Never. Below 30 is too hard to read. Many readers will give up. And that certainly can’t boost your marketing results. (If you want to know how many people are actually reading your marketing copy, try some Starch Tests.)

*A motherhood statement is a company description placed at the end of a press release.

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